AMENOPHIS was born in Germany in 1978, at the time of the creation group this composed of Michael and Stefan ROESSMANN and Wolfgang VOLLMUTH. They recorded their first album in their own apartment in the summer 1983. The lacks of sales force the group to sell all of their equipment. But in 1987 the chance their smiles with an offer to record a second album titled "You and I". The tour lasted until summer 1989. Subsequently commercial success beyond them, the Group decided to separate. "Twenty-six years later the group returned with a new album entitled" Time ". Today I have the great honour to present to you an interview with the initiator of this return, guitarist Michael ROSSMANN.
PR: I would like to begin by asking you this, after a silence of 26 years, why did you decide to return today?
Michael Roessmann: The most important point that encouraged us to return was, that the people have not forgotten us. Through all the years we have received motivating feedback from people who liked what we did. Still today there are people and blogs writing about us, reviewing our albums and commenting our work and sending us emails. That is amazing and give us the feeling that we have still an audience appreciating a sign of life from Amenophis. And now as my kids are adult, and the family life gives me a bit more freedom I realized, these are perfect conditions to invest some extra energy in a new Amenophis project.
PR: In reading your biography it soon realizes that the 1980s were not easy for Amenophis?
MR: The 80's were a tough decade for progressive rock bands in general and so for us. The progressive rock genre was pretty much out fashioned at these days. The surviving strategy of many PR bands including Amenophis was: Make the songs less complex, shorter and avoid long instrumental parts - actually avoid all the nice things that make rock music progressive. That worked at least to some extent. But it meant to make music that is not really coming from your heart. That was the toughest part at all.
M.Roessmann, W. Vollmuth, E. Hillebrand, S.Roessmann, R. Plattner
PR: Just by looking at the pictures of your studio before and after renovations, I say to myself that you were not only musicians?
MR: No no, luckily we were not only musicians :). In 1982 we stopped playing gigs to record our debut album. And since we had no money we said, let's convert our rehearsal room to a studio. Fortunately our former keyboarder Erwin, who was a carpenter took the lead of this rebuilding project. I have to admit that I was not a great help on that. Since I was very untalented with these things, they just let me do the cleaning ;-
PR: Your first album was reissued in 1992 by Musea Records, and it is at this time that I've known Amenophis, do you have any idea if the reissue has had success?
MR: Yes definitely. Musea Records was the turning point since they made our first album internationally available, so people got aware of it all over the world. With Musea the sales figures became much higher. We sold the most copies in countries like Japan, US, Canada, Brazil, Italy and France. For us, a little, unknown band with an self produced album recorded in a self made studio it was much more than we had ever expected.
PR: For the second, given that tracks format is different from the debut album, is it y had pressures to make a more accessible album or it is you who decide?
MR: It was our decision. At that time we have sold just handful copies of our debut album. We were pretty convinced that the format of the 1st album was not a successful one. To reach a wider audience we decided to change the format by making the songs more commercial. At these days it appeared the right thing to do. Later on, when Musea got the Amenophis distribution rights, no one was more surprised than we to see the debut album becoming more popular than the You and I album.
PR: What are the reasons that have led them to quit with René and Wolfgang in 1989?
MR: There were several reason. Progressive Rock was a dead genre and there was no sign that this will ever change.A career as a musician appeared pretty hopeless. My daughter was 2 years old and my wife was pregnant again. Somehow I had to bring some money at home. So I took a job offer in Munich and quitted playing guitar.
PR: Do you have continued to make music during these years?
MR: I haven't touched a guitar for more than 10 years. That changed when my wife gave me a little amp as a birthday present. This got the ball rolling. I started practising again, and for a while I played in Classic Rock Cover bands until I felt the time has come to write own songs again. That was when I contacted Wolfgang and Kurt for another Amenophis album.
Left to right : Wolfgang, Michael, Kurt et Karsten
PR: You want to present your new album "Time"? What is the title of the album has a special meaning?
MR: Sure. Well, 26 years between two albums is a very long time. So it's not surprising that the topic 'time' was pretty omnipresent during this project. This long time period has changed all of us in Amenophis - and not only physically ; . We realized that over the years everybody of us has developed musically in a slightly different direction with progressive rock still being our common base. We have seen this as an advantage because it makes our songs more colorful and the album more varied. Like the debut album, we produced the TIME album by ourselves. The production took place in a very relaxed atmosphere, entirely free from any commercial pressure or expectation.
And why time? The original project title was 'Overdue', and the plan was to make this the album title as well. One day someone came up with the idea to make Time our album title because quite a few songs on the album deal with this theme. So we had a discussion and finally agreed on Time becoming our album title and our Overture song became 'The Overdue Overture'.
PR: On the album you have included two unpublished compositions that were written at the end of the 1980s, are 'Avalon' and 'Wheel of Time', they should be on the next album?
MR: Yes, these songs were planned for the album coming right after You and I. Actually we already played Avalon and Wheel Of Time live at our You and I promo tour in 1988 and 1989. We decided to rescue them on the TIME album. So we had something to start with while the new songs for TIME were still under development.
PR: Your line-up is almost similar to that of 1988, however you welcome a new drummer, you want to introduce ourselves?
MR: Sure, with pleasure. Since Rene, our former drummer was not available for this project I introduced Karsten Schubert to the band. I already played with Karsten in a Classic Rock cover band. I knew him as excellent drummer with progressive rock background. We share the same music preferences as well as our understanding about the role of drums in a progressive rock environment. Karsten is a nice guy with a great sense of humor. Roughly 10 years younger than we others his drum play brought some fresh wind in the band. It's great to have him on board.
PR: It is you who have initiated the project of a return of Amenophis, what has been the reaction of Kurt and Wolfgang?
MR: It was like smashing through open doors. I sent Wolfgang and Kurt an email with the idea of a new album, details to be discussed. We agreed to meet, and I went there, well prepared with tons of arguments why this is worth to do. But it turned out that I didn't need to convince them at all. Both were immediately thrilled by the idea of playing together again. At the end of the day it was a very easy mission and a very convenient meeting :).
PR: According to you is easier to make the progressive music today than in the 1980s?
MR: Hm, good question. I would say, the particular challenge in the 80s was to stay motivated and to stick to your vision. There was no internet, no email at these days - the stage was the only opportunity to get some feedback. But playing in empty houses was quite normal for progressive rock bands at these days. That could easily start corroding the self confidence and the motivation of a band.
Today the internet provides additional great and effective platforms where bands can introduce their music. Even when you play in a niche genre there is a good chance to reach people who like what you do.
So the answer to your question is, yes it might be easier for progressive bands today to find an audience and to stay motivated. However, when you want to become more than an amateur band, the challenge to stick out of the crowd might be today as big as it was in the 80s.
PR: Do you believe as the progressive reborn or it will remain underground music that only a few fans will continue to listen to?
MR: I think progressive rock is still a niche genre, but it has greatly gained ground during the last 25 years. The music scene has become much more multi genre oriented. The internet was a big contributor to that development. I personally think that this development is still not over. There are so many great and talented progressive rock bands out there. The potential is tremendously high - I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the progressive fan community growing further.
PR: If I asked you your most beautiful memories as a musician?
MR: :) Fortunately there were some, but the most beautiful memory I can think of was probably the very first gig with Amenophis. We were the opening act for a great and well known local band. So the house was full. I felt really sick, because I was so afraid of playing in front of so many people. When the show started I was so scared that the people could laugh at us. I played the whole show with my back to the audience. At the last song I risked a glance and saw the people clapping, jumping around, I saw them completely going bananas. They liked us! This was a bit like a shock - of course a nice one. That was a great push for my self confidence and is still one of my most beautiful memories.
PR: What are your future plans?
MR: We are currently discussing the option of making a fourth project. There are already some great ideas I would love to see recorded on a future album. Within the next months we will determine how a fourth project fits to the individual time plans of the band members.
Another option I have in mind is a solo project. I like this idea because it means another kind of challenge and another level of freedom. But these are just ideas at the moment. I think the next months will show what is going to happen. However, one way or the other, I am quite optimistic that it will not take another 26 years until we will get back with something :)
PR: You have the final word...
MR: I like to take the opportunity to say thank you to all of you for not forgetting us, for your feedback and encouragement during all the years. That meant much to us and was a big motivation for us to make another album. Then as now, your feedback is always welcome and appreciated. If you have comments, questions, suggestions, don't hesitate to contact us. A band rule says: Every mail will be responded.
And thanks to you Richard for inviting me to the interview, it was a great pleasure.
I'd say thank you for your cooperation and your confidence.
Interview by Richard Hawey
April 25, 2014